Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Good Start to the New Year

The day was bright and clear - a little chilly to begin with, but warm in the sun. Eddie decided to go for a walk up Sha Tau Kok Rd, heading for the area where he worked in the early '90s. I didn't think we had a particular goal in mind, and lured by the thought of some interesting village food, I was happy to wander along.

We left the flat about 9.30, heading up the road at a slow pace, enjoying the freshness of the morning and the sunshine, taking photos as we went. It was cheering to see blue sky after so many days of cloud. We paused at a soy sauce factory, peering through the gate at the rows of sauce jars fermenting under conical hats, and enjoying the view of the hills in the distance. The last 15 years have seen major changes in the quality of the road, which has been improved with a median strip and planting.

The bauhinia flowers on the roadside smelled particularly sweet in the morning sun. Opposite Pine Village, we found a very well-kept toilet for a necessary stop. Hong Kong has many public toilets available, of varying standard, but many are spotlessly clean and well-appointed. This one was one of the best, the more surprising considering the remoteness of its situation.

Further along the road we came across a garden with fruiting mandarin trees in ranks, ready for Chinese New Year in 3 weeks. Trees with golden citrus fruits are especially valued at this time for their auspicious meaning. We also came across a village sitting out area with letter boxes alongside. This must be much easier for the postie, who would have formerly had to wind his way through the village maze to deliver the mail. This was the first such arrangement I had seen but we came across another later in the day.

The agricultural gave way to industrial premises, guarded by dogs which growled and barked. I didn't feel very comfortable passing these, and was relieved when we turned off the main road. The side road (Ping Che Rd) had fewer dogs on it, and we just wandered along, wondering (at least I was) when the village restaurant would show up. It never did, but luckily we had some apricots and coconut chips that sustained us on the return journey.

We walked the length of Ping Che Rd, taking photos and admiring the hills and scenery, with Eddie reminiscing, until we reached the closed area, where we had to turn round. Permits are needed to get any further as it is very close to the border with the mainland. We could see the towers of Shen Zhen beyond the fields.

We had a small refreshment stop, then continued on, past the derelict site of a deserted school, through Ping Yeung Village, as Eddie thought he could get to his old office site that way. However, he discovered that it wasn't possible and once back home, found from the map that we had taken the wrong road. As a result of the detour, we found ourselves in the grounds of the Cloud Spring Temple, where we spent quite some time admiring the gardens and buildings. The gardens are extensive and would have been really pretty with the lotus pond filled and planted. Unfortunately that section was drained and the mud wasn't very attractive. The waterfalls, bonsai trees and miniature gardens, on the other hand, were fascinating.

(From a description on notable sites in the North District: "Wun Chuen Sin Koon:

This Taoist temple is located on Ping Che Road in Ping Yeung Village of Ta Kwu Ling. The temple's beautiful landscape is interspersed with lotus ponds, traditional bridges, miniature gardens and exquisite carvings. The temple keeps a wonderful luck basin. When the handles of the basin are rubbed, tiny water droplets are expelled and sometimes a mini spring is formed. Every year, the temple holds a large-scale chrysanthemum show in autumn which attracts many visitors.")

Further down the road we branched off to another Village. This was again a dead end, and the roaming dogs made me too nervous to want to explore too far. So it was back to Ping Che Rd, with a decision to get a bus back to Fanling, as we had been walking without much rest for hours. The bus had us back home in minutes which was, in my opinion, well worth the fare.

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